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Cooking Dictionary

Cooking Dictionary

Glossary of Cooking Terms

Al Dente          the translation of this Italian phrase is "to the tooth." It is used to indicate the degree of doneness of pasta. It means it is slightly firm and chewy, not soft.


Baste                 This is the technique of brushing, spooning, or pouring liquid over food (meat and poultry). The goal is to preserve the succulence and it adds flavor to the dish.


Beat                    It is the technique of stirring or mixing strongly. In baking, beating adds air into eggs or whipping cream, or makes the mixture smoother, lighter, and creamier.


Blanch             This term means cooking foods, like vegetables, very fast in boiling water. This is done for the following reasons: to loosen and remove the skin, to enhance color and reduce the bitter flavor some vegetables have.


Blend                This means mixing together ingredients until they are well combined. This is done with an electric mixer, electric blender or by hand, using spoons or whisks.


Boil                     To bring to a boil means to heat a liquid until bubbles break the surface continuously and cannot be stirred away.


Braise               This technique is used in cooking to tenderize tough cuts of meat or fibrous vegetables. The food is first browned in fat then gently simmered in a small amount of liquid until tender.


Broil                   Cooking foods a certain distance from direct source of heat. Broiling is usually done in eclectic or gas ovens.


Caramelize  This means cooking sugar, sometimes with small amount of water, to a very high temperature so that it melts into a clear brown liquid and develops a characteristic flavor. The color can be from light golden brown to dark brown.


Chop                  Chopping is cutting foods into small, irregular shaped pieces. Chopped foods are larger than minced food and more irregular cut than dice foods.


Core                   Coring means to remove the center seed area of a fruit or vegetable. The most commonly cored foods are apples, pears, pineapples, zucchini, and cucumbers.


Crumble         To crumble means to break food into small pieces of irregular size. It is usually done with fingers. Ingredients that are usually crumbled are feta, blue cheeses, bacon, bread etc.


Cutting in       This is the technique used to combine a chilled solid fat such as butter with dry ingredients such as flour so that the resulting mixture is a coarse constancy mixture. Forks, knives, fingers or pastry blender may be used for this technique.


Deglaze           Deglazing refers to the technique used to retrieve the flavorful bits that accumulate to a pan after a food like meat, has been browned and the excess fat has been drained. While the pan is still hot, a small amount of liquid, like water, broth or wine is added ad stirred to loosen the browned bits in the pan. The resulting liquid is used as a base for sauces and gravies.


Dice                    To dice means to cut food into small cubes that are uniform in size. Dicing is usually used for presentation of dishes.


Fold                    Folding is combining two ingredients or mixtures, one of which usually has been aerated, such as whipped cream of egg whites. It is best done by placing the airy mixture on top of the other and with a rubber spatula, gently but quickly cutting through to the bottom and turning the ingredients over with a rolling motion. Care must be taken not to stir, beat, or overmix.


Grate                 Grating refers to the technique of making very small particles from a firm food like carrots, lemon peel, or Parmesan cheese by rubbing it along a coarse surface with small, sharp protrusions, usually a kitchen grater.


Knead               This term refers to the technique of manipulating bread dough in order to develop the protein in flour, called gluten, to ensure the structure of the finished product. It also aids in combining the dough ingredients.


Mince                Mincing means chopping into very tiny, irregular pieces. Mined food is smaller than chopped food. Ingredients that add flavor are usually minced, such as garlic and fresh herbs.


Reduce            To reduce is to boil a liquid, usually a sauce, until it volume has been decreased through evaporation. The result is a more intense flavor and thicker consistency.


Roast                 Roasting refers to cooking foods such as poultry or large tender cuts of meats in the oven. This technique produces a nicely browned exterior and a moist interior. Vegetables are also roasted. This technique intensifies their natural sweetness.


Sauté                 This is the technique of rapidly cooking or browning food in a small amount of fat in a skillet or sauté pan. The food must be consistently stirred, turned to keep from sticking or burning. Thin and tender cuts of meat, vegetables are great for sautéing.


Sift                       Sifting is passing a dry ingredient such as flour of powdered sugar through the find mesh of a sieve or sifter for the purpose of breaking up lumps and making it lighter in texture. Sifting is used in baking to achieve finer baked goods and smoother frostings.


Simmer           This means to cook a liquid or a food in a liquid with gentle heat just below the boiling point.


Strain                Straining is pouring a liquid through the small holes of a strainer or a sieve to remove lumps or unwanted pieces.


Steam                Steam is a method of cooking in the steam given off by boiling water. The food is held above, but not in, the boiling or simmering water in a covered pan. Steaming helps to retain flavor, color, shape, texture, and many of the vitamins and minerals.


Toast                 This technique refers to the method of browning foods by means of dry heat. Bread products, nuts, seeds, and coconut are commonly toasted. Toasting is usually done in a toaster, toaster oven, oven, or skillet, or under the broiler. The goal is to brown and crisp the food.


Whip                 To whip means to beat ingredients such as egg whites or whipping cream with a wire whisk or electric mixer to incorporate air and increase their volume. The result is a light and fluffy texture.


Whisk               Whisking refers to stirring, beating, or whipping foods with a wire whisk. Wooden spoons are sometimes used to whisk the ingredients.


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